We’ve all experienced inflammation at some point in our lives. In fact, the inflammation you have probably noticed is the good kind.
When you bump your shin against the coffee table and it immediately bulges up, or when the lymph nodes in your neck swell when a cold is coming on - that’s inflammation, your body’s response mechanism to injury or illness that helps aid the healing process.
Acute or temporary inflammation (the good kind) occurs when you get injured or when fighting off viruses or bacterial infections. The problems start when our bodies get into a state of chronic inflammation (swelling in the body that doesn’t go away), which can lead to health problems ranging from an increase in severe PMS symptoms to heart disease, autoimmune diseases, endometriosis, and digestive disorders.¹
There are lots of signs that your body might be battling chronic inflammation, such as joint aches and back pain, skin symptoms like acne, or GI issues like diarrhea or constipation.
While medications have been developed to help treat chronic inflammation, they can be prohibitively expensive and have a whole host of nasty side effects, up to and including death.²
What doctors are learning is that one of the best ways to reduce inflammation is not through medication but how we eat. Studies have found that lifestyle factors are perhaps the most important key to managing and treating chronic inflammation in the body.³
Diet, in particular, is a powerful tool that we can use to improve our health by eliminating foods that contribute to this constant swelling in the body.
Try removing these foods from your diet to reduce chronic inflammation:
- Trans Fatty Acids: Most trans fatty acids in our diet come from vegetable oils (corn, peanut, canola, and the ever-vague vegetable oil), which are used widely in the food industry for baked goods, prepackaged snack foods, and any deep-fried goods and have been shown to increase inflammation in the body.⁴ In addition to steering clear of those foods, swap out vegetable oils in your kitchen for oils rich in omega-3’s such as those derived from flax, rapeseed, nuts, or olive oil.
- Added Sugar: Sugar that is added to foods (rather than naturally occurring sugars, like those found in fruit and dairy) can cause big swings in your insulin and blood sugar levels, and lead to chronic inflammation. Added sugar can be found in sneaky places like granola, protein bars, even savory condiments in addition to those culprits that come straight to mind like soda, baked goods, flavored yogurts. One study found that a single sugar-laden soda a day increased inflammatory markers after just three weeks.⁵
- Refined Carbohydrates: Refined carbs like bread, rice, pasta, or sugary cereals all have similar inflammation producing effects to added sugar, because there is nothing to slow their breakdown into sugar as they hit your bloodstream. Instead try to choose whole grains such as oatmeal, brown rice, or quinoa which have more fiber.
- Processed Meat: Processed meat such as bacon, deli meats, sausage, ham and jerky have long been associated with higher risk for many inflammatory diseases including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and stroke.⁶ Removing these products from your diet and opting for more grass-fed organic meats in their place (as well as adding lots of color and fiber to your plate with fruits and vegetables) can greatly decrease chronic inflammation.
The right diet can combat inflammation. Think real whole foods. Greens, whole grains, nuts and seeds (like our seed cycling bundle), high-quality protein, and fats. Focus on adding in plenty of the good to crowd out the bad.
Also remember that even small dietary changes can make a big impact on your health. If cutting out everything all at once feels overwhelming, don’t stress! Choose a change that feels manageable, and build from there. Every step towards better health helps.